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Politics, Labor, and the War on Big Business

The Path of Reform in Arizona, 1890-1920

By David R. Berman

Publication Year: 2012

Politics, Labor, and the War on Big Business details the rise, fall, and impact of the anticorporate reform effort in Arizona during the Progressive reform era, roughly 1890–1920. Drawing on previously unexamined archival files and building on research presented in his previous books, author David R. Berman offers a fresh look at Progressive heritage and the history of industrial relations during Arizona’s formative period. In the 1890s, once-heavily courted corporations had become, in the eyes of many, outside “money interests” or “beasts” that exploited the wealth of the sparsely settled area. Arizona’s anticorporate reformers condemned the giant corporations for mistreating workers, farmers, ranchers, and small-business people and for corrupting the political system. During a thirty-year struggle, Arizona reformers called for changes to ward off corporate control of the political system, increase corporate taxation and regulation, and protect and promote the interests of working people. Led by George W.P. Hunt and progressive Democrats, Arizona’s brand of progressivism was heavily influenced by organized labor, third parties, and Socialist activists. As highly powerful railroad and mining corporations retaliated, conflict took place on both political levels and industrial backgrounds, sometimes in violent form. Politics, Labor and the War on Big Business places Arizona’s experience in the larger historical discussion of reform activity of the period, considering issues involving the role of government in the economy and the possibility of reform, topics highly relevant to current debates.

Published by: University Press of Colorado

Title Page, Copyright Page

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p. ix-ix

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pp. xi-xiii

On a broad level, this book is a study of the political and economic response to the emergence of corporate capitalism in the sparsely settled territory and state of Arizona during the years 1890 to 1920. It covers a period generally referred to as the Populist-Progressive era, focusing on a set of reforms tied together by a desire . . .

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pp. 1-14

On August 3, 1918, a conservative editor of an Arizona newspaper declared: “In no state in the Union has the crusade against big business been waged so unceasingly and unscrupulously as in Arizona . . . From governor down to cross-roads . . .

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1. “The Beasts”

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pp. 15-28

In the 1860s Arizonans set out on a quest for economic growth. Acting in a united fashion to promote development of the area’s natural resources, territorial leaders obtained much of what they had wished for by the late 1880s—in . . .

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2. Stirring the Political Pot

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pp. 29-41

In the early 1890s Arizonans had two major causes: statehood and free silver. The two major parties agreed on these goals, but neither was willing to offer much in terms of political reform or to challenge corporations in the interests of labor. This left room for the emergence of a third party. The pressure for change in this . . .

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3. Populists Make Their Case and Their Mark

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pp. 43-54

The national Populist or People’s Party, formed in 1891, represented farmers, workers, and others who—for one reason or another—were unhappy with the way the economic, social, and political systems were evolving in the last decades of the nineteenth century. The preamble to the party’s platform, adopted in . . .

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4. Statehood and the Path of Reform

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pp. 55-67

Arizona’s population jumped from about 123,000 in 1900 to over 204,000 in 1910, a 66 percent increase. During the same period, the US population grew by only 21 percent.1 Encouraged by these numbers, prominent Arizonans renewed the drive for statehood. There was little sentiment in the territory for joint . . .

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5. Worker Unrest, Organization, and Confrontations

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pp. 69-82

Arizona’s working class in the last decades of the nineteenth century consisted of native-born Anglos, Hispanics, and European-born immigrants who found employment in farming, mining, and transportation (especially with the railroads). Workers were divided by skilled-unskilled differentials, language, . . .

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6. Rising Tide

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pp. 83-93

In 1901 over 100 Socialists attended a “unity convention” in Indianapolis, Indiana, and created the Socialist Party of America, also known simply as the Socialist Party. Leaders later recognized the importance of the 1893 depression and the 1894 American Railway Union Strike in setting the conditions that led . . .

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7. Finishing Up, Looking Ahead

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pp. 96-105

During the period 1907–1909, the last years of territorial governance, Arizona politics was shaped by the confluence of several strong currents. For one thing, with the joint statehood proposal shot down, statehood for Arizona seemed imminent and political leaders were focused on removing the last remaining . . .

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8. Reformers Take Charge

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pp. 107-120

By late 1909 it had became apparent that Arizona would likely soon become a state. Soon thereafter, a struggle for control took place during the drafting of the statehood enabling act and in the selection of delegates to the ensuing Constitutional Convention. In the past the prospect of statehood had aroused . . .

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9. Making and Selling a Constitution

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pp. 121-135

Following their victory in the 1910 delegate contest, the Progressive-labor Democrats took control of the Constitutional Convention, causing considerable alarm among conservatives who said they feared the leftists would produce a document that would be rejected in Washington and, more important, a . . .

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10. New Regime

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pp. 137-151

In the December 12, 1911, election in which they decided to remove the judicial recall from their constitution, Arizona voters also selected their first set of elected officials. Frank Murphy asked voters to “give capitalism a chance” and avoid putting radicals in state offices.1 There was some confusion over whether . . .

Image section

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pp. Photo-1-Photo-18

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11. Bringing in the Voters

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pp. 153-166

In November 1912 Arizona voters continued to demonstrate the Progressive mood that had led to the approval of the constitution and the first set of office holders. The 1912 election, however, created serious concerns for the Hunt Democrats. After the election, Hunt had to deal with increased opposition from . . .

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12. Radicals at Work

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pp. 167-179

With the ascendency of the Hunt regime, Arizonans at the far left of the political spectrum had high hopes for fundamental change. Recovering from near devastation following the Labor Party episode, Socialists themselves demonstrated considerable electoral support, reaching a high point in 1912 but still strong enough . . .

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13. Drawing the Battle Lines

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pp. 181-192

Democrats could take considerable comfort from the results of the 1914 elections, even though the legislative results were not that encouraging. With these results, combined with an intense corporate lobbying effort, the pace of reform slowed considerably in the legislature that went into session in 1915. By that time . . .

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14. Going after Hunt

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pp. 193-204

Speaking to a gathering of Arizona bankers in the fall of 1915, Frank Murphy warned that Hunt was “aiding and abetting agitators who are largely influencing the workingmen against their own interests and the welfare of the state.” Between Hunt and the broader anti-corporate movement that had engulfed the state, . . .

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15. Hunt, War, and Wobblies

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pp. 205-218

Following a recount of the votes cast during the 1916 gubernatorial election, the Maricopa County Superior Court awarded the governorship to Thomas E. Campbell on December 16, 1916. Hunt went to the State Supreme Court seeking a reversal by charging vote fraud. The State Supreme Court’s final decision, . . .

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16. Aftermath

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pp. 219-231

George Hunt was angry while delivering a message to the Third Arizona Legislature, meeting in special session in May 1918. He praised the support Arizonans had shown for the war effort but denounced the profiteering patriot, “the detestable hypocrite who with sanctimonious demeanor goes through the mummery . . .

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Concluding Observations

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pp. 233-240

The Populist-Progressive reform era, roughly 1890 to 1920, incorporated several causes and drives that were loosely related, unrelated, and even incompatible. The concern in this book has been with a central focus of the period—the need to control the political and economic influence of large corporations—as it played . . .


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pp. 241-302


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pp. 303-316


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pp. 317-330

E-ISBN-13: 9781607321828
E-ISBN-10: 1607321823
Print-ISBN-13: 9781607321811
Print-ISBN-10: 1607321815

Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 17 b&w photos, 2 maps
Publication Year: 2012